Beneficiaries at Swiss pension funds want their schemes to invest sustainably – RobecoSAM poll

Swiss pension fund assoc ASIP says its members are doing so, but carefully.

Nearly three-fourths of Swiss pension fund members polled in a new market survey want their schemes to invest sustainably and another 60% say they would be willing to sacrifice some return in exchange for the schemes doing so. These are some of the key findings of a new survey released by Swiss sustainable asset manager RobecoSAM and compiled by Swiss think-tank gfs-zürich Markt & Sozialforschung. More than 1200 pension scheme beneficiaries from around Switzerland participated.
There were, however, cultural and social qualifications to the support. While 78% of German-speaking Swiss were in favour of their schemes integrating ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria, only 39% of Italian-speaking Swiss in the canton of Tessin supported it. Of the French-speaking Swiss polled, 65% said they wanted ESG integration by pension funds.
The overall backing for ESG was lower (63%) if it meant a legal requirement for Swiss pension funds to respect international conventions. Support was greater (72%), however, among the Swiss earning more than CHF7000 (€5800) a month than from those earning up to CHF4000 a month (59%).
“The message to Swiss pension funds from their beneficiaries is clear: A huge majority wants them to integrate ESG criteria that are financially relevant when they invest.” said Michael Baldinger, Chief Executive of RobecoSAM. Indeed, that same majority believes that such integration will lead to better investment decisions over the long term, he added.Asked to comment on the survey, Swiss pension fund association ASIP said its members supported sustainable investing in principle: “However, our members also must ensure that the performance of the investment is in balance with the risk and the liquidity,” said ASIP Managing Director Hanspeter Konrad. “As a result, each sustainable investment must be judged on a case-by-case basis, which is what our members do.”
Other findings of RobecoSAM’s survey included what kind of sustainable investing beneficiaries wanted their schemes to do and what kinds of investments they should avoid.
Regarding the former, most (75%) beneficiaries felt that Swiss pension funds should invest in companies that combat water scarcity. This was followed by 74% in favour of companies that try to resolve food scarcity; 69% for firms involved in promoting more energy; and 63% for those finding solutions to raw materials scarcity.
On the other hand, most (86%) Swiss pension fund beneficiaries want their schemes to avoid countries that violate human rights. Another 85% say that their schemes should exclude companies that violate labour rights. This was followed by 83% who say they should eschew companies that pollute and 76% who want them to avoid companies that do not respect shareholder rights.
Link to gfs-zürich survey